Kinship care and family violence: Experiences, impacts and support
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Family violence in kinship care arrangements1 is causing high levels of hardship to carers and the children in their care, and carers lack appropriate levels of support according to a report by Baptcare.2
The report, ‘It’s been an absolute nightmare’: Family violence in kinship care, investigates the types, frequency and impacts of family violence in kinship care arrangements among a cohort of carers3 in Victoria during November 2016 – May 2017. The study recruited 101 carers who had experienced family violence since their kinship care placement started. The carers were surveyed on their experiences and follow-up interviews were conducted with 22 of the carers.
Experiences and impact of violence
The report highlights the varied nature of family violence in kinship care arrangements and the extensive negative impacts on carers and children in their care. Of the carers surveyed:
- 51% had experienced physical violence and/or abuse
- 82% had experienced psychological, verbal and emotional abuse
- 68% reported the child/ren in their care had experienced family violence.
The parents of the child/ren in care were reported to have committed most of the violence (68% perpetrated by mothers, 36% perpetrated by fathers). Almost half (46%) of carers also reported having experienced violence from a child they were caring for.
The impact of the family violence reported by carers was extensive. High numbers of carers reported stress/anxiety (93%) and negative effects on their mental and physical health (80% and 69%) as a result of the family violence. Carers reported that children experienced similar issues, with the main impacts of the family violence being stress/anxiety (90%), psychological issues (85%), behavioural issues (81%) and trauma (79%).
Support for carers
Family and friends were the most common source of support received by carers, with support groups reported as a vital part of the support they received. Caseworkers, counsellors, doctors/medical specialists and community service organisations were also common sources of support for carers. However, carers reported various issues in accessing appropriate support. Additionally, 28% of carers reported that they had not received appropriate levels of support from relevant government agencies or community service organisations.
Around one-third (32%) of the carers were reluctant or afraid to report family violence in kinship care arrangements. Fear of the child/ren being removed from their care and the threat of further violence were given as the main reasons for not reporting family violence.
Carers also reported a lack of financial support, with the costs of caring impacting the carers’ own financial security and ability to pay for services needed for the child/ren in their care. Inconsistencies in the supports and benefits available to carers were also reported, with eligibility depending on factors such as the carer being a grandparent and if the care arrangement was formal or informal. Financial support – including receiving the same level of financial support and access to services as foster carers – was the most common type of support that carers reported they needed.
Caring for children who had experienced trauma also emerged as a major concern. Carers noted a need for more specialised training and services for dealing with trauma, adding that such supports could be provided by government departments responsible and that statutory child protection workers’ understanding of trauma could be improved. Carers also reported a need for respite care and out-of-school-hours activities for the child/ren.
The report highlights a range of challenges faced by kinship carers dealing with family violence and a need for appropriate support services to help carers.
The report provides a series of recommendations to address family violence and enhance the capacity of carers and practitioners involved in kinship care arrangements. The recommendations cover increased access to counselling, respite care and legal aid for carers, further training for government departments responsible and statutory child protection workers, as well as equitable access to care payments. The report concludes by detailing Baptcare’s own response to their findings, which focuses on supporting kinship carers with evidence-informed practice.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Victoria, announced a new model of kinship care in December 2017, which aims to provide better support for kinship placements. More information is available on the DHHS website.
- A review of kinship carer surveys: The “Cinderella” of the care system?
This CFCA paper provides a systematic review of surveys of kinship carers to identify support needs of kinship care families.
- Kinship care: A review of issues
This Family Matters paper outlines the results of a literature review about the issues relevant to kinship care in Australia, with special reference to policies and practices in New South Wales.
- Working together to care for kids: Survey of foster and relative/kinship carers
This AIFS research report discusses findings of a national survey conducted in late 2016 that aimed to better understand the characteristics and needs of the carers of children who are living in out-of-home care in Australia.
- Investigation into the financial support provided to kinship carers
This report from the Victorian Ombudsman presents results of an investigation that looked into the financial support received by kinship carers.
- A new model of kinship care across Victoria
This media release from the Government of Victoria provides details about a new model of kinship care announced in December 2017.
- Care provided by relatives or members of the child’s social network when a child is unable to live at home with their parents.
- Baptcare is a community organisation based in Victoria that provides support and services to vulnerable adults, families and children, including those in kinship care arrangements.
- Carers included those in formal or informal care arrangements.